Groups call for Covid-19 to be declared an occupational disease to better protect workers

PETALING JAYA: A group of 51 organisations and trade unions have called on the Malaysian Government to declare Covid-19 an occupational disease under the law to ensure social protection for all workers and their families.

They said that by doing so, workers who are infected by Covid-19 at their workplace, even during this period, will become entitled to social protection accorded by social security schemes and laws.

“Employers have a duty in law to ensure a safe working environment, and will also now be required to ensure that the workplace is safe from Covid-19 and/or any other dangerous communicable diseases, especially those can result in death or other permanent disabilities, ” the group said in a joint statement on Thursday (April 2).

These groups included the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), North-South Initiative (NSI), National Union of Banking Employees (NUBE), the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam) and the Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM).

They added that all ailments, not just Covid-19, which can cause death or other disabilities that may impact these workers' future employment and income, ought to be specifically classified as occupational diseases, and workers should be accorded all benefits under social protection laws.

“These laws should apply to all workers, including migrant workers and domestic workers.

“In Malaysia, local workers are generally covered by the Employees Social Security Act 1969, which provides better protection to workers and/or their families compared to the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1952 that generally covered migrant workers. There must be equal protection for all workers, even domestic workers, ” they said.

They said that the Human Resource Minister can use the powers conferred by subsection 32(2) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 (Act 514), and declare that Covid-19 be recognised as an occupational disease.

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